Coffee in Vienna
“Viennese Coffee House Culture” is listed in the Austrian inventory of UNESCO’s National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Viennese coffee house is described as a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.” (Source: wikipedia)
Everyone in Vienna has their own favourite café. There’s no best or worst, just pick one where you feel comfortable (or not), sit back, relax and enjoy the show. My favourite cafés are listed below. Here’s a link to my Flickr photo set Vienna Cafés.
There’s a story that Vienna café waiters are supposed to make you feel like they are doing you a favour to serve you … when you realise this is part of the culture it becomes fun. Another tradition is that if you ask for the bill three times and it doesn’t come, you don’t need to pay. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but the bill always does seem to come after asking three times!
Harry Eyres (Financial Times Columnist: The Slow Lane, 17 February 2013) did a great job describing Vienna cafés in his article: Where the customer is not king … as he says, “Unlike the maniacally smiling baristas of Pret, Vienna’s café waiters are permitted eccentricities” … I would add, some more than others! (His favourite cafés: Prückel and Tirolerhof.)
One final note: Austria does not fully ban smoking in restaurants, cafés and bars, so be careful when choosing a seat or a café to visit (read my post on smoking in Austria).
Andy’s Favourite Viennese Cafés
Some of my favourite cafés:
- Café Sperl (German) – very traditional cafe in the 5th district. Great cakes and baked goods! Lots of newspapers. Nice outdoor area in the summer. Can be touristy, but many locals. They take reservations. If you only go to one Vienna cafe, go here.
- Café Jelinek (German) – a classic coffeehouse in the 6th District, down the hill from Mariahilfestrasse. Very traditional atmosphere, opens at 9 am. Same owners as Gastwirtschaft Steman across the street and Gasthaus zur Stadt Krems (in 7th district), both excellent places to sample traditional Vienna “Wirtshaus” food and culture.
- Café Prückel (German) – a bit more modern (1900s). Excellent cakes and real food (good place for lunch or a snack), newspapers, very popular with locals. One of the last traditional Ringstrasse cafés.
- Cafe Eiles – another quite traditional cafe well worth visiting, high ceilings, booths, newspapers, traditional (no website, located at: Josefstädter Straße 2, 1080 Vienna, short walk from Rathaus);
- Café Landtmann – Across the street from Rathaus, near the Parliament, beautiful cafe where you can imagine lots of political deals made, excellent cakes, coffee, food. Another of the few remaining Ringstrasse cafés.
- Café Florianihof – (unfortunately a link with music!) in the 8th district. Fantastic food, Illy coffee, Trumer Pils (Andy’s Beer Rule), newspapers, local. This is my idea of what a café would look like if it were invented today, a striped down Jugendstil. Lunch specials, weekend brunch.
- Aida – Vienna’s own coffeehouse chain for over 100 years serving excellent coffee and baked goods at good prices. Fantastic 1950s kitsch design (check out the website). Mostly locals.
- Oberlaa Kurkonditorei – chain with very contemporary design and truly excellent food and cakes (especially the chocolate mousse cake). Lunch specials. Not so much of a cafe atmosphere (i.e. for sitting around all afternoon). Webpage: Oberlaa Kurkonditorei Locations.
More about Coffee in Vienna
Some interesting links and information about coffee in Vienna:
- Das Wiener Kaffeehaus – internet site listing almost 600 coffee houses with information on events, exhibitions etc.;
- Merisi’s Vienna for Beginners – Merisi is a coffee lover … these are posts tagged coffee;
- Ball of Vienna Coffee House Owners (Kaffeesiederball) – combining two of Vienna’s most famous traditions;
- Coffee House Museum – museum located at Austrian Museum for Social and Economic Affairs, 5th District, Vogelsanggasse 36;
- Vienna School of Coffee – neat idea, a place to learn about coffee from Master Barista Johanna Wechselberger. She’s also co-authored a great book with everything you want to know about coffee (available in German and English). They have open house most Saturdays from 10-15:00 but call first to make sure (9th District);
- Wikipedia’s list of well known Vienna coffee houses.